I hated cats. They stink, they shed, and they are just plain useless. I wouldn't eat at someone's house if they had cats. I wouldn't sit on their furniture. In fact, for 37 years, I avoided cats and their owners.

JulietteNovember 26, 1996, a few months after my father died, my sister called and asked me to go the mall with her and her daughter. Still mourning the loss of my father, I said no. I was already in my pajamas and didn't want to get dressed. She kept pestering me to go, and I finally relented.

We got to the mall and walked past the pet store. I saw a tall cage with several kittens. Yes, the kittens were cute, but so what? They still stink! Yawn.

We continued our shopping and when we were done, we wandered back to the kittens. There was only one tiny baby left, and she was the stinkiest of them all. So greasy and sickly looking, and she didn't even respond to our voices or touches. We asked the store manager why this kitten was the only one left. He told us that no one wanted her.

Well, it turns out that this tiny one-pound kitten was really 6 months old and very sickly. The pet store owner had taken care of her and tried to nurse her back to health. He said she would probably die anyway. Who wants a dying cat?

All the other kittens were taken already, and only Juliette remained. Juliette lay there, unmoving, doing nothing. Well, no one deserves to die alone, in a dark cage, in a mall. Not even a stinky, smelly, sick cat.

I thought back to my father's hospital bed and how I wished we hadn't had to "pull the plug". Gratefully, his entire family was by his side, so he didn't have to die alone. And neither should this cat. "Ok," I thought, "Juliette can come home with me to die. At least she won't be alone." The manager gave me all the supplies I needed, and the workers at the pet store cried, as I walked out the door with the kitten.

After we got home, I let Juliette out of her crate and sat down in my chair. She came up to me, put her paws on my knees, and yelled the loudest meow I'd ever heard. Don't know what that was all about but I sure hoped she didn't keep up with such a racket.

Ok, I could afford a vet visit the next day. The vet said, "No shots for her; she is too sick. Don't waste your money. She is dying. Just take her home and wait."

I waited and waited and waited some more. Funny thing is, this cat didn't die. And something strange happened along the way. I started to enjoy tending to and taking care of her. I started to like her. I had a purpose for getting up in the morning. And then, all of a sudden, it hit me: I had fallen in love.

Juliette showing her heart shaped birthmarkIt didn't take long after that, before Juliette improved by leaps and bounds. Together, we both learned all about cats. We spent 16 years together teaching each other love, devotion, and loyalty. Our bond grew so strong that we rarely needed voices to communicate. I would think something, and she would do it. She would think something, and I knew what she wanted.

I truly believe Juliette was my father's last present sent to me from up above to teach me the life lessons he didn't have time to finish. Juliette pulled me out of my depression over his death.

Not only did she teach me to be a cat-lover but also she taught me that all living creatures are deserving of compassion, respect, and the right to be happy, no matter what their health is or the background they come from. She taught me to rescue and adopt 12 more special needs kitties. But the best gift was to show me that love really can conquer all.

Juliette and I learned how to conquer illness and disease together. She taught me that even cats can have devastating strokes with paralysis and still overcome them with hard work and love.

She taught me how to begin letting go. She bravely gave me one more year to learn how to go on without her. The day I set her free was heartbreaking. But I knew her lessons for me were over and I had passed with flying colors. She was the best teacher I ever had!

Juliette taught me that ALL creatures deserve love. It's so strange, how much I detested animals before she came along and taught me the right way to live. I am so the opposite now. Because of her I live, eat, sleep, and breathe animal welfare.  It is all I do 24/7!

And I know, as much as I wanted Juliette to reincarnate back to me again, she had more important duties with some other animal-hater that she needs to reform.  But our souls are entwined for eternity, and I WILL see her again. She is off on another mission right now. More former cat haters out there that need to be enlightened.

But she did send me a little bit of herself in a new cat I call Mary Anastasia.  She looks and acts so much like Juliette that I know Juliette touched Mary Anastasia before she came to me.

Ramona Ruhf


Ramona Ruhf joined Noah's Wish after Hurricane Katrina and told her stories about rescuing animals in New Orleans for the award-winning book RESCUED: Saving Animals from Disaster by Allen and Linda Anderson. Ramona is founder of a new group based on the concept that if a lot of people could donate just $1, we could very quickly raise a lot of money to help animals with emergency medical needs. The nonprofit group is called The Dollar Club - helping animals $1.00 at a time. Find The Dollar Club on Facebook and online at <www.thedollarclub.org>.

Ed's Note: This story first appeared in www.angelanimals.net and Ramona kindly gave me permission to include it on the Daily Mews website. My grateful thanks go to Ramona.


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